Margie Garrison was just 11 years old when she fell and injured her back in a playground accident. The trauma of her injury led to the development of severe osteoarthritis of the spine, and for the next 43 years she lived in pain while one physician after another treated her with medications and told her to “learn to live with it.” It was only when an enlightened physician told her that, “Arthritis is the easiest disease to cure,” did she finally decide to take responsibility for her own cure through diet and exercise.

The word “arthritis” is derived from the Greek words “arthros,” meaning joint, and “it is,” meaning inflammation, arthritis really means an inflammation of the joint. But it isn’t really that simple because, according to the National Arthritis Foundation, there are more than 150 different kinds of arthritis affecting one or more joints in the body, and some of these forms do not involve any inflammation.

More than 70 million people in this country suffer from some form of arthritis and, contrary to popular belief, it is not just a disease of older adults. Margie Garrison is just one example, but even babies as young as 6 months old have been diagnosed with arthritis. In fact, there are four major factors that can lead to arthritis (Arthritis 101, National Arthritis Foundation):

• AGE. The risk of developing arthritis depends on age. Arthritis is the leading cause of physical disability among adults 18 years of age and older, and osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in this age group.

• GENDER. Arthritis generally occurs more frequently among women than men. Before age 45, osteoarthritis occurs more frequently in men; after age 45, it is more common in women. Rhematoid arthritis also occurs 2-3 times more frequently in women than in men.

• OBESITY. Obesity increases the liklihood of developing osteoarthritis, particularly among women, and diet and exercise can heop to control weight gain to minimize the stress on joints.

• WORK: Certain work-related repetitive movements can lead to injury or physical trauma that can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.

There are also four different forms of treatment for arthritis recommend by the National Arthritis Foundation including medication, alternative therapies, exercise, and diet. The latter two – exercise and diet – are probably the least popular among arthritis sufferers because they require some self-discipline, but they may also offer the greatest long-term relief and quality of life assurance.

Most people in this country abhore exercise whether they have arthritis or not. In fact, less than 10% of the population in this country exercises on a regular basis, so it is no surprise that more than 60% of the population is overweight. But people who suffer from arthritis are even less inclined to exercise - usually because they are in pain from performing even their every-day tasks. Yet, aside from the obvious fact that exercise can help to control weight, it has also proven time and time again to reduce pain and stiffness in joints, increase flexibility and muscle strength, and improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance. If people with arthritis do not exercise, their condition will almost certainly get worse, and their quality of life will be increasingly diminished.

Exercise for people with arthritis should include range-of-motion exercises to maintain flexibility and relieve stiffness; resistance exercises to increase muscle strength to help support and protect the joints; and aerobic or endurance exercises to help control weight and improve overall function.

The National Arthritis Foundation recommends that people with arthritis modify their exercise program if they notice any of the following symptoms:

• Unusual or persistent fatigue
• Increased weakness
• Decreased range of motion
• Increased joint swelling
• Continuing pain (lasting more than 1 hour after exercising)

Diet is another bugaboo for most Americans because we love to eat – and usually all the wrong things. But while the National Arthritis Foundation does not offer any specific dietary suggestions for arthritis other than eating well-balanced meals with, perhaps, an emphasis on vegetable fiber low in unsaturated fats and high in calcium, Margie Garrison has much stronger opinions.

Garrison, 82, who lives in Lago, Florida, outside of St. Petersburg, has learned – largely through trial and error – that her arthritis is “cured” as long as she watches what she eats and exercises regularly. She is a strong advocate of water exercise for people who suffer from arthritis because of the natural buoyancy of water and its therapeutic qualities. And she knows that if she eats certain foods, such as white flour and margarine, many of the painful symptoms of her arthritis will return. So, her arthritis is “cured” only as long as she plays by the rules. Says Garrision, “If it is to be, it is up to me. We have choices in life, and if I choose not to exercise or choose to eat the wrong foods that I know are going to cause my pain to return, it is my own fault! I can’t blame anyone else or feel sorry for myself.”

She has written a best-selling book, I Cured My Arthritis, So Can You available at or 1-888-673-7454. As Garrison says, “I am not a medical person, and I do not recommend that you stop taking any drugs. You will do that on the advice of your doctor! As he sees you getting better, he will reduce – then cancel – your medication. I have already made all the mistakes – tried all the cures – gone to over 13 physicians – had the gold treatments – the drugs – the shoe lifts – the traction – the FAILURES! Even a body cast for 3 months!”

One of Garrison’s favorite letters is from an 80-year-old woman who was bedridden with arthritis. After following Margie’s regimen of diet and exercise, the woman started running in senior citizen marathons and even started mountain climbing! It just goes to show how much of our day-to-day lives is controlled by our attitudes – even for people suffering from arthritis. Yes, it hurts, but it will hurt even more if we don’t take some personable responsibility for our condition. To repeat Margie Garrision’s motto: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Author's Bio: 

Jim Evans is a 41-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and internationally recognized fitness consultant.